Each year more than 24 million vehicles travel on Interstate 74, inching their way through Peoria, IL, and the surrounding tri-county area, on a highway designed to handle only a fraction of today’s traffic.
Built in the late 1950s, prior to the formation of the interstate highway system, I-74 is no different than so many other urban routes. Growing congestion and the wear and tear of time has led to fighting for federal funding and meeting the challenges of major infrastructure improvements.
Increasing motorist safety is key in this battle. The top five accident spots on I-74 exceeded the average statewide accident rate by anywhere from 290-percent to a staggering 1,490-percent. That’s three- to 15-times the state average, and that includes the heavily traveled areas of Chicago and East St. Louis.
Much-needed upgrades on I-74 began in 2002. At a cost of approximately $460 million, it’s the largest downstate highway construction project in Illinois history.
Currently the I-74 upgrade is in the home stretch as contractors race toward a December 2006 finish. It’s crunch time –– and one of the subcontractors on the project expresses that in a literal sense.
As the owner of his own excavating company, Terry Laible said he’s “crunching” (he prefers that term over crushing) approximately 40 bridges within the stages of this four-year demolition and construction process.
He’s tackling the job with a hydraulic multi-system jaw attachment that turns his excavator into a versatile demolition workhorse –– even in tight spots where traffic is pounding right next to his job site.
The Right Fit for the Application
Mounted on Laible’s John Deere 892 excavator is a MS25R hydraulic multi-system jaw, manufactured by Breaker Technology Inc. (BTI). One of four models within the MS Series, the MS25R features interchangeable crusher, plate shear, demolition and pulverizer jaw sets that turn an excavator into a virtual tool carrier –– and that means flexibility, adaptability, cost-efficiency and increased safety for contractors such as Laible.
For the I-74 bridge demolition, Laible consulted with Martin Equipment of Illinois Inc., a long-time John Deere and BTI dealership that focuses on solutions for construction, utility and forestry contractors in the tri-state area.
Martin Equipment recommended the use of the BTI MS25R, over the traditional use of a hydraulic hammer, for a variety of reasons.
Laible’s No. 1 obstacle is working efficiently within a small job site next to a moving lane of traffic.
“The problem with a hydraulic hammer on this job is that you can’t position the excavator properly. You can’t square up correctly to the specific area we’re breaking on the bridge. To work safely away from moving traffic, we’re sitting on a 45-degree angle, and in that position, the chisel on a big hammer just glances off the concrete,” said Laible.
The BTI MS25R allows a continuous 360-degree hydraulic rotation. This means that Laible can work effectively, even on an angle. It eliminates the time-consuming process of continually repositioning the excavator, while minimizing fuel consumption and reducing excavator maintenance and wear costs.
“With these old bridges, you have to have just the right tool. If you do, it will go pretty fast,” Laible said.
By using the MS25R, Laible averages just a two-day timeframe to demolish an entire vaulted bridge abutment, crush the material to a transportable size and load it onto a truck.
Most often, Laible switches between the pulverizer jaw and the demolition jaw set, the latter being used when more rebar is present. The jaws can easily be changed in the field in one- to two-hours.
When using the pulverizer set, he is working with a 31.5-in. jaw opening and 104.5 tons of crushing force at its outer tips.
“This unit just grabs a hold of that concrete wall and crunches it, cutting the rebar all at the same time. Importantly, unlike the use of a hydraulic hammer, it does it all without any concrete debris splattering into the traffic lane,” said Laible.
The unit’s replaceable teeth are another time-saver, according to Laible.
“Instead of the old way of taking a welder out on the site, and hard-surfacing the teeth for several hours, every other day –– we can take a hammer and a punch, pound out a pin, and the tooth falls out. It’s just like changing a tooth on a backhoe bucket. In a matter of minutes you can put on a new tooth and you’re right back at it again. It speeds everything up, but it also prevents the problem of wearing out an expensive jaw set because you didn’t hard surface enough. That’s critical,” Laible said.
As there are many different contractors and many different pieces of equipment being used on the massive I-74 project, Laible has the opportunity to gauge his performance against others, and his BTI MS25R jaw against competitive options.
“Some of the other units are the same size but they don’t have near the amount of power. You can watch some of these units hitting resistance. They simply will not break some of this material. My unit may slow down when it hits resistance, but it will continue to crunch material,” said Laible, who attributes this to its two-cylinder design (versus a one-cylinder offering on comparable models).
This delivers a higher clamping force, he said. Increased strength is then maintained through the complete stroke, and the maximum force is obtained at the maximum jaw opening. A speed valve provides fast open and close times, for fast cycle times.
Also, BTI said it’s engineered the MS25R with a large bearing design that incorporates a double row of balls with a large diameter for increased life and less maintenance.
Additionally, the unit features well-protected cylinder rods and hydraulic components for long-term reliability.
The Big Picture
Construction delays often cause the motoring public to forget why they had asked for a better highway system.
When this occurs, the Illinois DOT is quick to remind folks that I-74 was originally constructed when Dwight Eisenhower was president, Ed Sullivan had the number-one television show and The Beatles didn’t even exist.
It was time to bite the bullet. And, it was time for contractors like Terry Laible to demolish the old, antiquated structures, opening the way for new overpasses, new pavement, safer entrances and exit ramps, and brighter lighting and beautification.
Lastly, those like Laible, who work these heavy-highway demolition projects day after day, and year by year, know that they have to meet deadlines and operate with maximum cost-efficiency.
Combining an excavator with a multi-system attachment tool creates a powerful package –– one that allows today’s contractors to minimize labor and downtime, increase productivity and do the job profitably.
For more information, visit www.rockbreaker.com. CEG
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